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How will Nats compensate for Werth's absence?

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How will Nats compensate for Werth's absence?

The Nationals are going to be without Jayson Werth for awhile, likely until sometime in August after a specialist at the Mayo Clinic discovered two small fractures Thursday in his injured left wrist.

That’s not good news for the Nats, who now face at least two more months without their No. 3 hitter and trusted veteran outfielder.

But that doesn’t necessarily make it crippling news. Sure, the Nationals would much rather have Werth than not have him. But they’ve already established their ability to thrive without him. And they do have options to replace him in the short- and long-term.

The absence of Werth from the lineup for prolonged stretches is nothing new for the Nats. He missed three months when he broke the same wrist making a diving catch in 2012. He spent time on the disabled list in 2013 with a strained hamstring. And he battled through a shoulder injury last season, one that eventually required surgery to repair the AC joint.

Werth missed all of spring training and the season’s first week due to that shoulder ailment. Now he’s going to miss another long stretch of time with an injury to the same wrist that has plagued him several times during his career.

The Nationals, though, have shown they can win with Werth sidelined. Lest anyone forget, they won 98 games in 2012 despite that 3-month DL stint, including a 47-34 record when he was out of the lineup. (That’s a .580 winning percentage.)

And they’ve established they can win without him already this season. Since Werth last played May 15, the Nationals have gone 9-2.

So the notion that general manager Mike Rizzo needs to go out and acquire another left fielder to take Werth’s place is a bit misguided. For one thing, Werth isn’t out for the season. He will be coming back, and Rizzo isn’t the type who usually gets pressured into picking up a player to fill in for only 2 1/2 months.

Werth also remains under contract for two more seasons after 2015, owed $21 million in 2016 and again in 2017. He’s not going anywhere.

What of the Nationals’ options to replace Werth until he’s healthy again? They may not be awe-inspiring, but they’re far from a black hole, either. Michael Taylor, Tyler Moore and Clint Robinson have held their own while filling in for Werth and actually have been just as productive at the plate as the man they back up.

Nationals left fielders this season are hitting a collective .210 with a .281 on-base percentage, .307 slugging percentage and .588 OPS. That’s not very good.

Werth, though, sported a .578 OPS at the time of his injury, and even though he had picked up the pace in the final week before getting hurt, he still wasn’t producing up to his career norms.

Take Werth’s stats out of the mix, and the Nationals’ remaining left fielders have been just as productive, even more so in some cases: a .215 batting average, .271 on-base percentage, .329 slugging percentage and .600 OPS. Still below-average, but the guy they had for most of the season’s first six weeks was producing at below-average levels to begin with.

Point is, the Nationals should be able to get away with what they already have. Taylor has sparkled at times, struggled at others. But he’s guaranteed to provide excellent defense, and given the current makeup of the lineup, he’s not really needed to do much at the plate. Moore remains a solid threat against left-handed pitchers, while Robinson continues to be a threat against right-handers.

Besides, it’s too early in the season to make significant trades. They rarely happen at this stage of the game. If, come mid-to-late July, the Nationals still aren’t getting any production out of their left fielders and Werth remains several weeks from returning, they could always try to acquire a stop-gap at the trade deadline.

But that’s a decision that doesn’t need to be made for awhile. Yes, the Nationals will be hurt by the loss of Werth. But based on what we’ve seen over the years, they’re plenty capable of making up for his absence.

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Murphy's big hit helps Nats beat Mets 6-1

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Murphy's big hit helps Nats beat Mets 6-1

Daniel Murphy and Trea Turner each hit a two-run single in Washington's five-run seventh inning, helping the Nationals beat the New York Mets 6-1 on Sunday.

Matt Adams added two hits and scored a run as Washington salvaged a split of its four-game set against New York. A preseason favorite to win the NL East and contend for a World Series championship, the disappointing Nationals hit the All-Star break with a 48-48 record, good for third in the division.

Jeremy Hellickson (4-1) pitched six crisp innings in his second straight win. The veteran right-hander allowed one run and two hits, struck out six and walked two.

Jose Reyes drove in Michael Conforto with a fielder's choice in the second, tying it at 1, but Washington grabbed control in the seventh.

Juan Soto and Anthony Rendon opened the inning with walks against Anthony Swarzak (0-2). Tim Peterson then came in and surrendered singles to Adams and Murphy, who came off the bench to hit for Michael A. Taylor.

Jerry Blevins replaced Peterson with two out and runners on second and third. But he hit Wilmer Difo and Adam Eaton before Turner's single gave Washington a 6-1 lead.

New York wasted a solid start by Corey Oswalt, who allowed two hits in five innings. The Mets got off to a fast start this year, but hit the break last in the division with a 39-55 record, a percentage point behind fourth-place Miami.

WAITING

A steady drizzle delayed the start by 47 minutes.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) pitched 5 2/3 innings in a rehab start for Class A Potomac. He allowed three runs, struck out seven and walked one. Strasburg has been on the disabled list since June 10.

Mets: Yoenis Cespedes is scheduled to play five simulated innings in left field at the team's facility in Florida on Monday. Mets manager Mickey Callaway said the 32-year-old outfielder, who has been sidelined by a right hip flexor and strained quadriceps, could return as the designated hitter next weekend against the Yankees If he is able to play on consecutive days.

MAKING MOVES

The Nationals recalled right-hander Trevor Gott from Triple-A Syracuse. Right-hander Austin Voth, who took the loss in his big league debut Saturday, was sent back to Syracuse.

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Taking a look at the numbers behind the Nationals' three All-Stars

Taking a look at the numbers behind the Nationals' three All-Stars

With a win on Sunday afternoon, the Nationals come into the All-Star break at 48-48. 

That's not great! It's certainly an underperformance given all the expectations, but the season hasn't been without some stellar individual performances . 

Take, for starters, Max Scherzer. Scherzer's on pace to have an even better year than his 2017 Cy Young-winning effort, which is mind-boggling. 

An even-more-refined command is what's made him better this season, as his walk rate is down below seven percent again after creeping up to 7.1 last year. It hasn't affected his strikeout rate, either, which has stayed steady at 34 percent. If the season ended today, it'd be the 4th straight year where he set a career-best in that department. 

Of all starting pitchers, he ranks second in WHIP, and K/BB percent. He has the third-lowest average against (.178) and third-best strikeout percentage (34.5). He's got a top-10 ERA and FIP as well. He's been the best pitcher in baseball this season, and will probably be in the conversation for N.L. MVP as well. 

If only the Nats could just go from Scherzer to Doolittle. The closer stopped walking people, too, and already has 22 saves after ending last year with 24. Had he not been put on the D.L. with a toe injury about a week before the All-Star game, he more than likely would have set his career high in saves before the break. 

He's currently on pace to post the second-best year of his career when it comes to strikeouts, too. He's getting Ks 37.1 percent of the time, which would be the highest since he posted a 37.7 in 2014. Same goes for his K/9. He also has a top-10 ERA and FIP. He's been one of the few relief pitchers that have been consistently reliable through the first half, and the Nats will need his toe to get real healthy real quick. 

And lastly there's Bryce Harper, who you've surely heard is not having an All-Star caliber season. His batting average is hovering around .200, he's striking out more than he has in four years, and he's getting eaten alive by the shift. He's also on pace to have one of his best power-hitting seasons ever and finish with close to 40 home runs, so even his bad years still find a way to be impressive. 

Harper also benefits from being one of the faces of baseball playing in front of his home fans. He's one of the most popular players in the league, and All-Star games find a way to get those people in. An All-Star game in D.C. without him would be objectively less enjoyable, so it was in everyone's interest to have him there. Stars just get the calls sometimes. 

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